"There were a lot of quality number eights around the provinces at that time; there was Brian Robinson up at Ulster, Anthony Foley and Gaillimh (Mick Galwey) at Munster and Phil Lawlor was at Leinster. And then there was Noel Mannion at Connacht, a proud Galway man through and through.
"To set the scene, I had just come back from the Olympics and with chances limited back at Leinster I decided to move to Connacht. I have to say that I really enjoyed my time there. There were a few of us travelling over from Dublin - Kevin Devlin from Skerries RFC and Stevie Jameson from St. Mary's College RFC - and so we used to train in Athlone with the rest of the squad and then spend the night in a hotel over in Galway for the interpros.
"This was an era when a few Exiles like Simon Geoghegan and Jim Staples returned to play for Connacht so we had a strong team alongside stalwarts like Noel and Tom Clancy. It was an exciting time to be out West.
"You have to remember that at time there were only four or five games a year, which is something that can't be said nowadays. The whole climate was different then. The Club game was king and I was playing in a successful St. Mary's side in the AIL.
"So by the time professionalism came around in 1995 I was back with Leinster. Jim Glennon was the Coach and I joined a strong back-row which included Dean Oswald - a teak-toughnumber eight from Blackrock College RFC who moved to (play at) 7 and Chris Pim, who was captain. And having experienced the other side of the fence, as it were, I knew exactly how Connacht would approach games against Leinster!
"Mannion was a real focal point for them and he was, how shall I say, well able to tell me what he thought of me as a player! He had a few choice verbals too but it was all part of the fun of those games which were always keenly fought.
"Games against the other provinces can be tense times for players. You're in a bit of a bubble, in fact it's more like a merry-go-round because you tend to know your opponent inside out and you could fighting for the same spot at international level. There has been a fair bit of traffic between the provinces and with the likes of Fionn Carr and Paul O'Donohoe at Connacht now and Sean Cronin and Mike McCarthy at Leinster, they will know exactly what to expect.
"Chris Keane was another Dubliner who moved to Connacht and he was an absolute devil to play against! He'd never leave you alone. I would have come across the likes of Gavin Duffy at international camps and he was a very different personality on the field, but equally committed.
"And there were a few heart-breaking games back when I played, such as the time when Mark McHugh finished us off in Donnybrook. I have a distinct memory of the closing moments of the game and watching the ball sail over the bar. Heart-breaking!
"It used to drive us mad years ago how Connacht could go an beat us up in Dublin and then lose at home to one of the Welsh clubs at home the following week. They have built greater consistency into their game nowadays and their home is becoming a real fortress.
"With the November series coming up there'll be an edge to this game, rest assured. The Ireland management will want a full-blooded game too, without injuries! They're difficult games physically and emotionally and it can often be like check-mate because you know each other.
"I had great times during my rugby career and lots of things have changed since then but the over-riding thing is that the passion never dips when you play Connacht, irrespective of the era. It's a rivalry built over time and based on mutual respect."
*Victor Costello retired from professional rugby in 2005 after making 126 Leinster appearances and he also earned 39 Ireland caps (between 1996-2004). He also had spells at Connacht and London Irish. A former five-time Irish shot-put champion, he represented Ireland at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He is currently based in the UK where he works as an Airline pilot.
VICTOR COSTELLO HAS DONATED PROCEEDS FROM THIS COLUMN TO ALCOHOL ACTION IRELAND